Alternative Spring Break (ASB) is one of many community engaged learning (CEL) programs available to students at Western. As a complement to undergraduate and graduate students’ classroom learning, community engaged learning activities – such as curricular courses, Western Serves Network, Orientation Servesand Alternative Spring Break – ask students to apply theoretical knowledge in real-world environments. These opportunities require students to step outside the university and consider how community might influence their academic learning and personal development.  

Even though we have a number of experiences that take place in Canada, we consider them to be global experiences, due to the intercultural exchange involved within the group and community. International CEL or global service learning is an experience whereby students engage with community partners to provide service that contributes to community-identified needs, learn about existing successes and areas for growth in the community, and connect with other individuals to understand the similarities and differences from one’s own community.

We strongly promote the importance of connecting with community and learning directly from community members. We encourage participants to learn about the issues that community members face in their everyday lives, what a typical day looks like for a community member, and what the long-term goals of the community involve. Although connecting with the community may seem less crucial than completing projects and tasks, the opportunity to learn directly from community is an invaluable experience that is not possible through textbooks or classroom learning. ASB is invested in experiential learning, and strongly encourages participants to embrace this unique learning opportunity. 

Six Principles of Global Service Learning

Community-Driven Service

Community partners identify needs in the community. Participants connect with community members and engage in the identified projects to address gaps in capacity.

Intercultural Exchange

Individuals from different cultural backgrounds are able to interact, communicate, and learn from one another.

Exploration of Global Citizenship

Participants are encouraged to explore how this experience will influence their lives, specifically their civic engagement, after the experience.  Participants are encouraged to explore how people are connected, regardless of race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, age, gender, religious background, political beliefs, and how can we ensure all human experiences are valued.

Reflective Practice

Participants are reflecting in a continuous, contextualized, challenging, connected and communicative way throughout the duration of the program.

Deliberate and Demonstrated Learning

Participants are given the opportunity to learn during every moment of the program; whether it is in a large or small scale fashion and regardless of the issue.

Attention to Power and Privilege

Participants are to be aware of the power and privilege that they hold, what it means to participate in a program like ASB and engage with diverse perspectives on how their participation may be received and interpreted by community members. 

Learning Outcomes

The learning outcomes for the ASB program are:

  1. Demonstrate empathy and the ability to explore ideas, issues, and the world at large from viewpoints other than their own, through reflective practice, group discussions and program activities.
  2. Work under conditions of ambiguity or uncertainty by engaging with community partners, community members and working as a team.
  3. Apply disciplinary knowledge in order to research, reason and solve problems from a range of contexts relevant to practices in their disciplines.
  4. Develop their sense of civic engagement and social responsibility by participating in community work, locally and internationally, and describe it through reflective practice.
  5. Demonstrate an understanding of intercultural competence, sensitivity, and humility by completing pre-departure workshops, activities in OWL and the ASB Reflective Practice Workbook and participating in the one-week experience.